McKinley was the incumbent U.S. president. He duplicated his campaign of 1896 by remaining at home in Ohio and in the White House. Roosevelt, governor of New York, former Secretary of the Navy, and hero of the Spanish-American War, traveled more than 21,000 miles in his bid for the vice-presidency. The Republicans defeated the Democratic candidates William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) and Adlai E. Stevenson (1835-1914). [Note: the Adlai Stevenson who ran for president in 1956 was his grandson.]
Bryan and the Democrats promised reductions to high protective tariffs, the coinage of silver, and an end to the U.S. acquisition of territories overseas. But the main reason voters chose Republicans was the improvement in the U.S. economy, particularly that of Seattle, since the Klondike Gold Rush and the Spanish-American War.
Although candidate Roosevelt spoke out in the campaign against "trusts," that is, combinations of businesses that stifled competition by controlling production and prices, the Republicans in Seattle allied themselves with "the interests" such as the railroads, lumbering, and electrical power (Sale). McKinley's policies of adhering to the gold standard and of exploiting the gains of the war with Spain had benefited the Seattle economy. Of the two major daily newspapers, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer owned by John L. Wilson backed the Republicans and The Seattle Times, owned by Alden J. Blethen (1846-1915) supported the Democrats.
The Republicans took all other major state offices, except Governor John Rogers. He was a Populist listed on the ballot as a Democrat and he won a tight race with Senator J. M. Frink. Minor parties that fielded candidates included the Social Democrats, the People's Fusion Party, and the Socialist Labor Party.
The vote count in selected races was as follows:
On September 14, 1901, President McKinley died of an assassin's gunshot wound. Theodore Roosevelt took his place as president. Governor Rogers also died that year. He was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Henry McBride.